WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (AUGUST 18, 2017) (STATE TV) – With U.S. President Donald Trump increasingly isolated over his response to white nationalist violence in Virginia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a broad condemnation of racism on Friday (August 18) and promised to make his department more racially diverse.
Trump is facing a widening backlash among fellow Republicans, business leaders and even sports stars since the violence last Saturday in the Virginia city of Charlottesville arising from a rally by white nationalists. The crisis could further imperil his policy agenda, which includes tax cuts.
Tillerson invoked the 1865 second inaugural address by Abraham Lincoln, the president who freed the slaves and presided over the Civil War against rebellious pro-slavery Confederate Southern states. As the war drew to a close, Lincoln asked the nation to bind up its wounds from the conflict, Tillerson noted.
“We, too, today should seek to bind up the wounds,” Tillerson told participants in a State Department fellowship program. “We must pursue reconciliation, understanding and respect regardless of skin color, ethnicity or religious or political views.”
He announced a new State Department policy in which at least one candidate for any opening for an ambassador post must be a minority, noting that currently only about 12 percent of U.S. senior foreign service officers are non-white.
Tillerson did not mention Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville violence, which erupted as white nationalists protested the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.